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McHenry County discussion on township consolidation study continues

The question of whether taxpayers would benefit from township consolidation is
not a dead issue to some on the McHenry County Board, despite its rejection of referendums to
consolidate them.

A last-minute proposal to commission an outside study to examine the impact of consolidation
was kicked to committee before the board’s Oct. 6 vote to reject putting referendums on the
March ballot to reduce the number of townships from 17 to eight. The Finance and Audit
Committee, which is led by the board member who floated the idea, will take up the issue at a
future meeting.

Chairman Mike Skala, R-Huntley, said he wanted to make sure voters had the information they
needed to make an informed decision – something he and other members who voted against the
referendums said was sorely lacking from the proponents of the idea.

“I think the data is worthwhile, whether there’s ever a [referendum vote] or not, whether
townships are being prudent and frugal, or whether there are savings that can occur,” Skala said.
The discussion could take place as soon as the committee’s Oct. 29 meeting – it was on the agenda
for its meeting last Thursday, but the meeting ran long and was postponed. The resolution
proposes a maximum cost of $15,000.

A group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation, with the blessing of several
high-ranking county Republican officials, asked the County Board in March to put the
consolidation initiatives on the ballot. The group argued consolidation would save taxpayer
money and improve accountability.

A five-member task force made up of three County Board members and two township officials
was convened to come up with a plan. But after three hearings and an open house, the task force
only could agree on recommending two proposed consolidations – Richmond and Burton
townships in the county’s northeast corner, and Chemung and Dunham townships in the county’s
northwest corner.

Opponents successfully argued that proponents had not made its case that consolidation would
save money – what’s more, because the levies of two consolidating townships are added together
and then divided among their total assessed value, the residents of the township with the lower
tax rate would see a tax increase. The County Board rejected the referendums on a 13-9 vote.

Skala cautioned that advancing the study does not necessarily mean the County Board would take
another shot at consolidation referendums. Its results could be used by taxpayers to hold their
townships accountable, or petition on their own to advance consolidation referendums if they so
decided.

Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions: to assess properties, to maintain
roads and to provide assistance to constituents in need. Although supporters of township
government in Illinois call it the most direct and responsive form taxpayers have, critics call it an
unnecessary anachronism rife with nepotism and patronage.

-Northwest Herald

McHenry County Board rejects township consolidation referendums

A lack of hard information on the effects of merging townships, except for the fact
that property taxes for many McHenry County residents would increase, doomed an effort to put
referendums to voters to consolidate them.

The County Board voted Tuesday, 13-9, against putting referendums on the March 2016 ballot to
consolidate the county’s 17 townships into eight.

The vote came after an hour of public comment, mostly from township officials opposed to the
idea, and two hours of sometimes heated debate among members.

In an unusual move, board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, started off the debate by
apologizing for even starting it in the first place at the behest of a pro-consolidation group.
“Had I known what I know today, I wouldn’t have done it,” Gottemoller said.

Gottemoller said the fact that taxes would go up for property owners in the township with the
lower of the two tax levies was a deal-killer for him, and he said it should be for other members.
Because the levies of two consolidating townships are added together and then divided among
their total assessed value, the residents of the township with the lower tax rate would see a tax
increase.

“We are standing here today looking at something that positively will raise taxes for half of our
residents,” Gottemoller said.

But supporters of the consolidation initiative argued that the resolutions before them Tuesday
only moved the question for the voters themselves to decide.

“I realize that change is a very scary thing for all of us. That’s not what we’re doing today. That’s
not what we’re saying. All we’re saying is we want this on the ballot,” said board member Donna
Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake.

A group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation, with the blessing of several
high-ranking county Republican officials, asked the County Board in March to put the
consolidation initiatives on the ballot. The group argued consolidation would save taxpayer
money and improve accountability.

Gottemoller convened a five-member task force made up of three County Board members and
two township officials to come up with a plan.

But after three hearings and an open house, the task force only could agree on recommending
two proposed consolidations – Richmond and Burton townships in the county’s northeast corner,
and Chemung and Dunham townships in the county’s northwest corner.

The remaining six consolidations on a map the task force could not reach consensus on
advancing still made it to Tuesday’s agenda. The County Board rejected all eight on a single vote.
Board member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, who chaired the task force, said township
consolidation proponents “offered no data and no valid solutions.” The only thing the
referendums offer, she said, is “a shift of who the taxes come from.”

Board member John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, scathingly criticized the entire initiative as
ham-handed, and called any idea that consolidation would save any money “a damned lie.”
“I keep hearing this referred to as a plan. A plan. Really? Where is the plan?” Hammerand said.
County Board members who supported the referendums said voters are intelligent enough to
make their own choices and should be given the chance.

“If I am going to err, I am going to err on the side of the people,” said member Chuck Wheeler,
R-McHenry, said.

Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions: assess properties, maintain roads
and provide assistance to constituents in need.

Although supporters of township government in Illinois call it the most direct and responsive
form taxpayers have, critics call it an unnecessary anachronism rife with nepotism and
patronage.

Although supporters maintained during the task force’s hearings that their consolidation plan
would result in a $4 million annual savings, Schofield acknowledged at a Sept. 1 presentation of
its findings that the total savings, if any, are completely dependent on the new officials of each
consolidated township.

A number of township officials, who packed the task force’s hearings, warned County Board
members Tuesday of unintended consequences over what for most taxpayers say is the cheapest
level of government on their property tax bills.

The proposed and rejected merger of Richmond and Burton townships would add $100 onto the
bill of the owner of a $200,000 home, Burton Township Supervisor Sam Jones told board
members.

As for Richmond Township, Supervisor Pat Doyle said it would cost $150,000 just to expand
township offices to make room for taking on Burton Township’s assessments.
But several speakers supported putting consolidation on the ballot as a way to help relieve
McHenry County’s high tax burden.

Mike Shorten, a Nunda Township trustee who headed the pro-consolidation group, cited an
opinion poll showing 80 percent support for putting the referendums to voters. Opponents called
the poll questions biased.

“The public has spoken. There are too many government entities, property taxes are too high,
and something – something must be done about it,” Shorten said.

More than one opponent suggested the County Board could do a lot more to lower property tax
bills than the townships could.

“[Township government is] way closer to the people than you are,” former Dunham Township
trustee Robert Dodson told them.

Besides the proposed Richmond/Burton and Chemung/Dunham consolidations, proposed
mergers rejected Tuesday included McHenry and Greenwood, Nunda and Dorr, Coral and Seneca,
Marengo and Riley, and Algonquin and Grafton townships, as well as a three-township merger of
Alden, Hebron and Hartland townships.

-Northwest Herald

McHenry County Board will tackle township consolidation referendums Tuesday

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board will decide Tuesday which townships, if any at all,
should be put before voters next year to consolidate.

Board members will vote on eight separate resolutions that, if approved and subsequently
ratified by voters, would halve the number of county townships from 17 to eight, as an advocacy
group wants.

Continue reading “McHenry County Board will tackle township consolidation referendums Tuesday” »

McHenry County Board meets township consolidation report with tough questions

The final report of a task force created to pursue consolidating townships by
referendum was met with tough questions by some McHenry County Board members.

While action on the task force’s proposals is a month away, the questions asked at Tuesday
morning’s meeting indicated more than a few board members will be a tough sell.
Board member Carolyn Schofield, who was chairwoman of the five-member McHenry County
Township Consolidation Task Force, said the task force only could agree on asking voters in two
sets of rural townships whether they want to consolidate.

After three hearings and an open house, the task force “hit a little bit of a wall,” Schofield,
R-Crystal Lake, told the County Board. Its members only recommended two referendums – one to
merge Richmond and Burton townships in the county’s northeast corner, and another to merge
Chemung and Dunham townships in the county’s northwest corner.

“I’m disappointed to say we could not get consensus on the remainder of the county,” Schofield
said.

Although the task force could not agree on a map for the remaining townships, it advanced one to
the County Board that spares no township from consolidation, and for the most part pairs off the
more populous townships with each other.

Under than map, referendums also would be proposed to merge McHenry and Greenwood,
Nunda and Dorr, Coral and Seneca, Marengo and Riley, and Algonquin and Grafton townships,
plus a three-township merger of Alden, Hebron and Hartland townships.

A group called McHenry County Citizens for Township Consolidation, with the blessing of a
number of high-ranking county Republican officials, asked the County Board earlier this year to
put consolidation referendums to voters to halve the number of townships from 17 to eight.
Board Chairman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, subsequently convened the task force –
consisting of three County Board members and one township official each from both sides of the
consolidation debate – to develop a map.

Townships under Illinois law have three statutory functions: assess properties, maintain roads
and provide assistance to constituents in need. While supporters of township government call it
the most direct and responsive form that taxpayers have, critics call it an unnecessary
anachronism rife with nepotism and patronage.

While supporters have maintained that their consolidation plan would result in a $4 million
annual savings, Schofield said the total savings, if any, is completely dependent on the new
officials of each township.

“In all honesty, 100 percent of where these cost savings lie are dependent on elected officials and
future elected officials,” she said.

Township elected officials and employees had a heavy presence at the task force’s hearings. Many
called the hearings unfair and criticized the whole process as a politically-motivated sham.
County Board members who spoke Tuesday questioned the impact on taxpayers in a
consolidating township with the lower tax rate. Because the levies of two consolidating
townships are added together and then divided among their total assessed value, the residents of
the township with the lower tax rate would most likely see a tax increase.

“When it comes to the taxpayers, there are going to be winners and losers, and we honestly don’t
understand to what extent that would be, is that correct?” board member Ken Koehler, R-Crystal
Lake, asked.

Board member Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, was more blunt, and called the map the task force
advanced a “non-consensus map that pretty much guarantees a tax increase for half the county.”
Any consolidation referendums the County Board approves at its Oct. 6 meeting will go to the
affected townships’ voters in the March 2016 primary.

-Northwest Herald